I realized today that I’ve gone more than a month without an update. It’s been a busy month, but that’s no excuse. I’ve gotten three new short stories done, made an editing pass on my novel, and took a workshop on plotting. All of that has left me very few words to spare on the blog, and I apologize for that. I don’t have much that I can show you, because I’m planning to submit almost all of what I’ve written, but what I can share is the finalized (at least until I change my mind again) pitch for Summoner’s Circle:
Young women go missing in Moonlight Bay, Oregon, but Suri Avesta decided to go to school there anyway. Finding a balance between college and the rest of life is never easy, but Suri has more hurdles to conquer than most: her lacrosse star boyfriend is hung up on his ex and the dining hall doesn’t offer good vegan options. She’s also the last of a bloodline that has spent generations fending off an invasion of elementals desperate to escape their troubled homeland—only she doesn’t know it yet.
When a jackal-headed monster attacks Suri in a dark stairwell, the calm surface of her life is swept aside to reveal what’s been lurking beneath. A mysterious woman with a mohawk and more ink than a busload of tattoo artists rescues Suri and introduces her to the arcane secrets that are her birthright. The magic Suri inherited from her dead mother frightens her as much as the creatures stalking the foggy corners of campus. Now she must learn to wield the untapped power inside her in order to survive and discover the source of the escalating attacks.
I’m pretty proud of it! I’m terrible at pitch writing, but a few of my friends from Viable Paradise helped me out with ways to make it more punchy, and I think it turned out great.
In the workshop last weekend I learned some tricks on making satisfying endings. The class was taught by the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal. Writers, I can’t recommend her Short Story Intensive workshop enough. You should sign up and take her class when next it’s available. She knows a ton about writing and her advice is priceless. Flush with the knowledge from the class, I have one more edit before Summoner’s Circle is ready to face agent roulette. Mary helped me figure out where my beginning went wrong because of where the ending winds up. See, priceless? I’m so excited to put her advice to work in my new stories, and even revisiting some of my old ones that didn’t quite work to see if I can fix them.
An interesting bit of writing news I wanted to share: Amtrak has announced a very limited residency program. The opportunity for uninterrupted writing while seeing the country from a train sounds lovely! I’m hoping to take advantage of the next one that becomes available, as I have some logistical problems with a trip like that early this year. If you’re looking to apply make sure you read the terms. They have very specific rules about what cannot be included in your writing sample, and it seems that whatever you submit will be considered free for Amtrak’s use in promotional material.
Hearts and puppies,
Going a bit of a different way with Science Affliction this week. All of the posts will be related to handedness and interesting scientific discoveries regarding the anomaly that left-handers make up such a relatively small portion of the population (about 10%). I’m afraid this post will come out a bit more like a research paper than “cool science news” so you may want to back away slowly and then run like hell.
The idea for the topic of this post came from a video from a few years back from one of my science heroes, James Watson. He did a TEDTalk where he talked mostly about his group’s discovery of DNA, but he also talks a bit at the end about what he’s interested in now, which is the genetic pre-disposition for diseases and disorders. That part of his talk starts at about 15 minutes, if you want to skip ahead. (I do recommend watching the whole video because Watson is a great example of a non-stereotypical scientist. He’s humble and funny, and very approachable.)
So, his point about the link between schizophrenia and left-handedness has support from more recent studies. Like most cutting edge science, there’s a lot of disagreement on that point. That got me thinking about the genetics of handedness in general, and why only 10% of the human population is left-handed.
1) Here’s an article that talks about the genetics of handedness. Basically, there’s one gene with two possible options, one says you’re right-handed and the other says you have a 50/50 chance of being either left or right handed. Only approximately 10% of humans are left-handed. This would tend to say that the heritability of left-handedness would be around 25%, which the numbers support.
2) In the interest of fair and balanced reporting: A study in the UK couldn’t find a genetic link to handedness.
3) One study went to the world of sports for an answer and determined that the reason for the left and right-handed balance in humans has to do with how much cooperation and competition we require in our society. In sports where competition is favored, the number of left-handers is larger than the population average. Their model accurately predicted percentages in many sports, but does that mean it works as an indicator for the population at large?
4) I’ve saved the best for last. This article from 2008 is probably the most balanced of the bunch, and proposes that the predisposition for right-handedness may have evolved along with our capability for speech. To me, this makes the most sense. Our brains have obviously adapted for some reason to favor one side of the brain over the other (more so than other animals like chimps that have so much genetic similarity to us) and there has to be an evolutionary reason for it that goes beyond our use of hands.
That’s all the left-handed links I have for you today. Hope you learned something interesting! I sure did.
As of this writing I have four stories out on submission to various markets. I don’t mind telling you, I feel like a bit of a badass. A year ago I had only submitted two stories ever, and those only to one market each, and promptly locked my form rejections away where no one would ever see them. These days I have a different philosophy about the rejection carousel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terrified of rejection and I likely always will be, but each time I send a story out I feel a little less like the entirety of who I am is being judged based on a few words on a page.
Steven Gould had a great piece of advice for us at Viable Paradise that has really stuck with me. As a writer one of the most important things you can do is tie your self-worth to something, anything else besides your writing. I’ve thought about this advice since October, and decided that it’s absolutely true. If every story is an integral part of who I am and I send it out to the world where it is summarily rejected and/or ignored, how can I expect to feel good about myself at the end of that process? It’s a struggle for me to dissociate myself from my work, but hopefully it will get a bit easier with time. I also have to find another hobby to pour myself into to take the place of writing, now that it’s become more of a ‘job’.
On the writing front I’ve been making good progress, but not much that I can share here if I want to send them at some point. I did have a germ of an idea for a new character over the weekend and wrote a little bit of a profile story for her that I thought I’d share.
Mikaela slipped out of the gauzy black dress with her back to the only mirror in her bedroom. She’d envied the women in the orchestra their beautiful gowns once, but not anymore. She couldn’t point to the exact moment when that had changed for her, but part of her wished she still wanted the black tie charity events and their careless elegance. More and more, the gorgeous dresses felt like a yoke holding her to a life she despised.
Despised was perhaps too strong a word. She still loved the music. When the rising and falling notes surrounded her, the charade made sense. The rest of the time, she hardly felt like a person at all. She was a work of art: a damsel in a lovely dress with her knees wrapped around an expensive musical instrument.
As she walked into the bathroom, she let her hair down from the intricate braid atop her head; the gemmed comb just another adornment that made her faceless amid the other captured, beautiful things. She couldn’t look at herself in the mirror until she’d washed off her makeup. Under the decorations, she was the woman she recognized after all.
Mikaela pulled her hair back into a pony tail, leaving the shorter pieces to find their own way about her face. She scrubbed her neck and chest with a washcloth, removing the perfume and powder that helped disguise her. When she felt completely like herself again, she was ready. She padded back into the bedroom and dressed again, this time in her own clothes rather than borrowed finery: black jeans, a white button-down shirt, and her favorite leather boots. She spared a glance for her cello case where it rested on the table, then stepped away from that part of her life, for the weekend at least.
That’s all for me. Hearts and puppies and all that jazz,
Science News from around the interwebs!
The featured image of this post is an absolutely breathtaking image of the Earth Rosetta took while slingshotting around us to pick up speed. Go here to see it in all its glory.
Before her long sleep, Rosetta took this awesome picture of the asteroid Lutetia with Saturn in the background:
2) The first plastic cell with a functioning organelle has been made. Don’t get too excited just yet: the faux-cell doesn’t approach the awesome complexity of a real cell, but it did perform a series of chemical reactions.
3) Carl Zimmer wrote an interesting article about X-Chromosome expression that talks about the genetic diversity inherent in women. Really fascinating studies being done now on why/how the cells in our body express or don’t express certain genes.
4) New support for the theory that a healthy gut promotes a healthy life. I’ve been reading up on digestion chemistry lately while trying to correct an increasing problem I’ve had in recent years and in that process I have a new-found respect for the symbiotes living inside all of us. Take care of your gut flora, people!
5) The first black hole orbiting (and feeding from) a neutron star is found. Reading about astrophysics often makes my head hurt, but I just can’t stop doing it!
That’s your science injection for the week. Use it in good health!
(Images from the European Space Agency)
Sometimes the writing life and real life interleave so fluidly that I get the overwhelming sense that I’m doing the right thing. It’s a little scary when that happens, mostly because I’m so used to feeling like a hack all the time. Over the summer I had one of those moments when a series of events occurred and I could see the connection between them. They became an entirely different story in my head, and the poem I’m posting is the result of that experience. I toyed with the idea of submitting it for publication because it’s the best piece of poetry I’ve written, but I decided it was too special to me to put it through the rejection cycle. So I give it to you, bloggies, as a gift because I haven’t posted much writing yet. (Spoiler Alert: I have been doing a lot of writing, but I’m trying to submit more so I’m keeping it mostly to myself.) Without further babbling, here is Old Woman in a Cuban Bakery.
Hearts, and Puppies,